Tufts students, alumni travel to Iceland for marathon

Tufts marathon runners pose for a picture in Reykjavik, Iceland. Courtesy Don Megerle

A group of 12 runners from Tufts, a number of whom are members of the Tufts Marathon Team, traveled to Reykjavik, Iceland to participate in the 2014 Islandsbanski Reykjavik Marathon through sponsorship by the Office of Alumni Relations’ Tufts Travel-Learn Program from Aug. 20 to Aug. 24.

Tufts Marathon Team Coach Don Megerle said that team member Annie Levine, a junior and photo editor for Daily, placed eighth female overall in her first ever marathon, qualifying for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:19:50.

Levine said she was surprised by her performance, which surpassed her goal during training.

“I trained to hit 3:30:00, but I ended up getting 3:19:[50], and it was a shock,” she said. “I didn’t realize that I had that capability. It was a struggle though that last ten miles.”

Megerle explained that he was in communication with some of the runners prior to the marathon to discuss training regiments, but distance over the summer precluded training in person.

“I sat with Annie Levine on the plane coming over to Reykjavik, and I had no idea about her running ability,” Megerle said. “I was just concerned that she was mentally and physically able to run … It was a great accomplishment.”

Participation in the Reykjavik Marathon was organized as part of the Office of Alumni Relations’ Tufts Travel-Learn Program, which organizes trips for Tufts alumni, family and friends, and was designed for both runners and non-runners, according to Megerle.

“Tufts Travel-Learn had sent programs to Iceland before, and it had been a huge success, so [Program Director] Usha Sellers at Tufts Travel-Learn suggested that we send runners, friends of runners, and send them over to the marathon,” he said.

Levine said she viewed the trip as a way of seeing another part of the world without going abroad for a semester.

“I was in Florida all summer doing an internship, and it was kind of boring and kind of monotonous, and I never got to travel anywhere,” she said. “And I didn’t plan to go abroad because of engineering … Even though it wasn’t a full semester abroad experience, I treated it that way. The marathon was an added bonus.”

Megerle explained that the program participants stayed near the center of Reykjavik and had plenty of time to travel around Iceland to learn about the history of the country and how the land was formed and see waterfalls, geothermal springs and spas, and landmarks in the countryside.

The marathon was a major event for Iceland and attracted people from all over the world, according to Megerle.

“When [we] got [to the marathon] on the 23rd, the city was shut down, cabs weren’t running, buses were running for free — the whole city focuses on the marathon on that day,” he said. “And when you are there you feel it. It is a big, big deal.”

Tufts Strength and Nutrition Trainer Marten Vandervelde said the he was impressed by the entire Tufts team.

“Everyone finished that set out to run it,” he said. “For a lot of people it was their first marathon. You never actually run a marathon before you run a marathon. It is a test of the system and mental willpower.”

Many of the Tufts team participants met each other only after arriving in Iceland, but quickly formed close bonds, Levine said.

“The team was so supportive,” she said. “Not everyone was [a] Tufts student — also graduates, families and friends. It helped to have a group that we felt connected to through Tufts.”

Levine is unsure if she will participate in the Boston Marathon, she said.

“I want to talk to my track coach and make sure that the Boston Marathon won’t interfere with the season,” she said.